Connor McDavid’s Offseason Studies Made Him Even Better

Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid led the NHL last season with 123 points and captured his fourth Art Ross trophy. He was also nominated for the Hart Trophy, awarded annually to the most valuable player to his team, and the NHL. Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin were also named as finalists.

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Matthews reached the 100-point plateau for the first time, but his 60 goals are what stood out and earned him 119 first-place votes compared to McDavid’s 29, and the Maple Leafs forward won his first-ever Hart Trophy. McDavid is as fierce as a competitor as they come, and with the way he’s scoring and leading the NHL with 11 goals so far in 2022-23, you have to wonder if he took that snub personally and just decided “I’m going to lead the NHL in goals this season.”

There’s merit to that as McDavid appeared on the “32 Thoughts” Podcast with Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek almost a month ago. They asked the Oilers captain what he worked on this past offseason, and he mentioned working on his shot, saying, “This summer I watched a lot of video on scoring goals and how guys score in different ways. For me, it seems like I have to score a highlight reel goal or do something crazy to score a goal, where you watch a guy like Auston score 60, it’s so impressive just the different ways he scores goals in and around the net, he’s got such good hands, he’s so smart. It was impressive to watch.”

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It seems the work and studying he put in in the offseason is paying off. Without saying it, he appears determined to win the Rocket Richard Trophy by leading the NHL in goals this season. The Oilers captain has always been a scoring threat on the ice, but his willingness to shoot with conviction this season makes this the most dangerous version of McDavid we’ve seen thus far.

McDavid’s Shooting Percentage Is Well Above His Career Average

McDavid’s career average shooting percentage is 15 percent, but this season he’s shooting at a 30 percent clip. For any other player that might seem like an anomaly, but for the Oilers’ captain, it just seems like a “McDavid-esque” type of thing to do to ascend to such a high level so rapidly. As a comparison, the highest shooting percentage in NHL history is 23.7 percent set by former Oiler Craig Simpson. Yet, even though his shooting percentage is up, his shot volume at 3.8 shots per game is down from last season’s 3.93. It seems he’s just becoming a more efficient, one-shot scorer.

Connor McDavid Edmonton Oilers Jacob Markstrom Calgary Flames
Jacob Markstrom of the Calgary Flames makes a save against Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

Former NHL player and now hockey analyst Rob Brown spoke on the “Inside Sports With Reid Wilkins” show about McDavid after the game on Nov. 11 against the Nashville Predators. He debriefed the captain’s knack to shoot:

“I do believe, and I don’t think Connor McDavid, would ever say it, but I do believe he has a goal in mind to score 50 goals this year. A few years ago, when Sidney Crosby, decided one year that he’s going to score 50 goals and went out and did it. Connor McDavid is shooting more, and good on him, he’s got an incredible shot. There are 2-on-1s now when he’s taking the shot. He never would’ve done that in his first three or four years, he always tried to create something and pass it to his teammate, but he knows that sometimes, most times, he is the best option.” – Rob Brown

There are pivotal moments throughout McDavid’s career when he’s flipped a switch and decided to single-handedly take over a game. Remember the goal against the New York Rangers last season on Kevin Lowe’s banner-raising night? The former Art Ross trophy winner scooped up the puck at the offensive line, danced around four Rangers players, and scored one of the best goals of his career to tie the game.

Having said that, we’re seeing that same killer instinct from the Oilers’ centerman early this season, yet he’s just more methodical in his scoring approach. Out of the 11 goals he’s scored this season nine of them have been from “simple” snap and wrist shots. An example of this is the first goal he scored against the Nashville Predators on Nov. 11. He telegraphed that he was going to pass to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, yet opted to shoot, scoring a simple five-hole goal on Predators’ goaltender Juuse Saros. Or how about his second goal of the game? Leon Draisaitl won the draw on the power play back to McDavid. In years prior in that situation, he’d typically lure two opposing players and then pass off to the open man. Yet on that play, he did nothing fancy, except skate in and beat Saros over the blocker.

What stands out this season is McDavid’s learning that he doesn’t necessarily have to deke out an entire NHL team to score goals. He’s gaining confidence (not like he needed it) that he can score goals and beat goaltenders cleanly, with his sneaky good shot alone. Again, it looks as though his studying in the offseason of how goal scorers like Matthews score is paying off.

How Many Goals Will McDavid Score This Season?

It’s way too soon to talk about McDavid scoring 50 goals in 50 games. Even his teammate, Draisaitl, scored 20 goals in the first 20 games last season, yet his scoring trailed off slightly but eventually reached the 50-goal mark in his 73rd game. Yet, if there was anyone in the NHL that was able to achieve the feat, wouldn’t you put your money on McDavid?

Brown also spoke about the matter, saying, “There’s two things — a), he’s good enough to do it and b) he’s shooting the puck. He wants goals. So, I’d never ever bet against Connor McDavid on anything that he wants to do, but I think that’s a discussion we’ll have once he gets around 40 goals, and then it’ll get exciting.”

Related: Connor McDavid Will Be Rocket Richard Trophy Front Runner This Season

What separates the legends of the game from the rest is their desire to want to achieve more— they’re never satisfied. McDavid has three 40-goal seasons and reached his career high of 44 last season. He’s on pace for 90 goals and it’s unlikely he’ll get there; 50 goals in 50 games are doubtful, but if he continues shooting with conviction like the way he’s started this season, a 60-goal campaign and a Rocket Richard Trophy is certainly not out of the question.

How many goals do you think McDavid scores this season? Have your say in the comments below!

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